Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Not Over by Christmas – offside from Bernie

Not Over by Christmas ran at the September 2015 CLWG session. Rob Cooper tested the air war sub-game for his forthcoming megagame. The offside report below was written by Bernie Ganley.

Not Over by Christmas – air war subgame from Rob Cooper

Going toe to toe with the Rooskies! The air war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact (WP) in the 1980s

English: Distribution of powers between member...

English: Distribution of powers between member states of NATO and Warsaw Pact in 1973 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

would have been massive, nasty, brutish and short. This was a playtest of the subgame to Rob’s long anticipated Megagame, Not Over by Christmas. This was to be a test of mechanics and a trial of the doctrines of the two sides.

  1. For NATO the need was to gain air superiority at the start and air supremacy after a few days. They could then bomb the living daylights out of the SAM belts and then turn on the Soviet tank fleet in the forward battle zone and also bridges in the deep rear to prevent/delay follow up forces. Qualitative advantage would allow this to happen. The model being that NATO would shoot down vast numbers of the poorer Soviet planes, while the better Soviet kit would be neutralised/avoided in the short term and destroyed in the long term. Their airforce types had a goodly range of ability from dog-fighting to close air support.

  2. For the Warsaw Pact reliant on mobile artillery to give fire support to their tank and mechanised divisions, they had a simpler task of merely denying NATO air forces their victory requirements. They had to prevent NATO free access to the battlefield. Thus most units were dog-fighters of variable quality with a few good for ground-attack.

The Not Over by Christmas system borrowed from the “Don’t Panic” 1940 air combat system in having a number of counters representing 30(?) aircraft with their mission types (NATO had many multi-role aircraft, WP more limited options). Depending upon airfield availability these could be used for dog-fighting, attacking SAM belts, airfield attacks or close-air support for ground forces. The rules were simple enough to resolve in 10-15 minutes which given the number of counters involved was pretty ingenious. There were a few extra rules to give period flavour:

  • Special munitions to allow you to shoot first (NATO had more)

  • ECM air units or pods to reduce effectiveness of SAM belts

  • WP deployed first so allowing NATO with its better command & control to pick on specific WP units.

  • Allow 1 WP unit to swap with an engaged unit so giving the more advanced Soviet kit to engage NATO

  • On first turn have Soviet air-assault/Spetsnaz and rockets (non-nuclear) to blast NATO airfields


English: An F-15E Strike Eagle ...

English: Flares: An F-15E Strike Eagle launches heat decoys during a close-air-support mission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This seemed more than enough as both doctrines could be trialled. The NATO forces were heavily pressed right from the start and while wore down the SAM belts and got in some close support were not able to degrade the Soviet air units fast enough. (Rob is I think modifying this) The Soviets following the principle “Quantity has a Quality all of its own” were able to achieve air superiority most of the time. As Mukul (game observer) noted that after 5 days of continuous air combat everyone would be knackered, not least the ground crews and airfield repair teams. Rob will hopefully modify airfield repairs with permanent destruction as well as the temporary dislocation inflicted in the game system. This would then increase losses, which were based on damage to the airfields (you lost 1:5 damaged air units at the start, then 1:4 to 1:3 depending upon airfield damage etc.)

As this was a sub-game of a bigger game, then the nuances of helping each other and the pleas of ground-forces did not enter into the picture, though NATO was forced to transfer air units north to help neutralise the Soviet main effort. I think it would be nice if the counters were colour coded or at least have the flag on as this might help who to pick on as it did seem to be part of NATO doctrine and as the Soviet airforce commander in the south I would certainly have picked on the US units if possible.

For such a deceptively simple mechanisms then it offers a great gaming experience, even if you are taking heavy losses and should be a very useful component of Rob’s “Not Over By Christmas” Megagame.

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